[Best of Silicon Valley 1999]

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Hall of Fame

Black Watch

A classic need never pander

By Michael Vaughn

For an establishment that has won nearly every category remotely associated with a neighborhood bar, 1998 was a down year. Last year the Black Watch broke its seven-year streak of first-place finishes and took second place in the Best Bar for Darts category behind Cupertino's Britannia Arms. It was an understandable defeat, to be sure--perhaps the result of votes split between categories. While Britannia Arms is a bona fide dart bar in the English pub tradition, the Black Watch is a Scottish-themed bar with an underdog attitude and just a couple dart boards in the back room. "I guess the troops didn't rally last year," surmises bar co-owner Steve Anzalone.

But the Black Watch clan had a year to look with pride upon the tartan of the 43rd Scottish Military Regiment, for which the bar is named. And with the regiment's slogan ringing in their heads, "Nemo me impune lacesset!" ("No one impugns me without my revenging them!"), they have taken back their freedom from the English. This year the Black Watch reclaims its rightful honor as Best Dive Bar in Silicon Valley.

"We never aspired to be a 'dive bar' " Anzalone says. "What you see here is what you saw when my dad opened it 40 years ago."

Jason Sherry
Watch What You're Doing: Jason Sherry takes aim in the Black Watch's diminutive darts room.

Run by Steve and Brad Anzalone, the bar was opened by their Italian-American father, Tony, in 1959. This year they celebrated the bar's 40th anniversary in characteristically low-key fashion.

"All we did was add '40 years' on our T-shirt," Anzalone says. "We don't do promotions. I think we'd alienate our crowd."

But the question remains: How has a bar with a listed capacity of 55 souls been able to so thoroughly dominate over the years?

"We have a loyal following of locals," explains Anzalone, including bar fixture Leslie Quinn, who can be found not far from where he was sitting when Tony Anzalone opened the place.

And even though a saber hangs behind the bar, Anzalone claims no rattling was necessary to get the votes. "We don't organize," he says. "If we win it's because people are voting for us for real."

141 1/2 N. Santa Cruz Ave., LG 408.354.2200

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From the September 30-October 6, 1999 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 1999 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

For more information about the San Jose/Silicon Valley area, visit sanjose.com.

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